Optimistic Five-Time Ivy Champ Men's Swimming/Diving Opens New Season
Every member of the Princeton men’s swimming and diving team spent last season knowing about the talk in the league. Without the Class of 2012, it was time for a new champion to be crowned in the Ivy League.
Or so they thought.
Quietly, a determined and gritty Princeton squad trained and persevered. The Tigers believed in the three classes who had championship experience, and they knew they were about to unleash a special freshman group upon the rest of the league.
And over a three-day span in Providence, Princeton proved that it would take something special to break the Ivy League trophy from their grasp. The Tigers led wire-to-wire and put an exclamation point on the championship weekend during a brilliant Saturday session.
And if anybody thinks the five-time defending Ivy League champion is comfortable now, then they just aren’t paying attention.
While the league continues to get faster, head coach Rob Orr and assistant Mitch Dalton were excited by the level of work put in both during the summer and in the preseason. And Princeton finally gets to test that work against opposing teams this weekend at DeNunzio Pool when the Tigers open the 2013-14 season at the Princeton Open (Nov. 15-16 • Ivy League Digital Network).
Here is a look at the 2013-14 Princeton Tigers:
Junior Harrison Wagner both won an Ivy League championship and qualified for the NCAA Championships last year, and he will lead the sprint group into the upcoming season. Wagner has Top 4 times in both the 50 (19.58) and the 100 (43.66) entering the season, and he will be a force in both individual and relay events.
Both sophomores Jeremy Wong and Sandy Bole were A finalists in the 100 last season, though Bole’s path was for more dramatic. He needed a swim-off, which included a rival from Harvard, and he inspired his teammates with a winning effort. The performance was a microcosm of what the freshman class provided last season — championship-level racing, no matter the opponent or situation.
Harvard returns a deep crew of sprinters, though, so Princeton needed to bolster their group with some youth. The staff has high hopes for Julian Mackrel, a 6-8 sprinter and USA Swimming Junior National finalist in the 50 free.
The middle distance and distance events showcased the depth around the league, as six different schools had A finalists in the 500 alone, and five reached the 1000 final. Senior Paul Nolle was one of the finalists in both events, and he has the experience of sweeping the distance trio from the 2012 Ivy championships. The Princeton record holder in both the 1000 and the mile, he can’t be discounted during his final Ivy League season.
Sophomore Zach Ridout gave Princeton a 1-2 distance punch last season, and Ridout broke into the Princeton Top 10 in both the 1000 and the mile. He will look to continue his climb this season, while freshman Jeff Williamson could be an immediate producer in both the 200 and the 500.
Another potential contributor could be freshman Sam Smiddy, one of the most versatile performers in the Class of 2017. He was a 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier in both the 200 and 400 IM, but he has the potential to be a scorer in the distance events.
Junior Conner Jager has also made a strong push in the offseason, and he could become a factor here as well.
Princeton had the league’s strongest trio in the back events last year, and all three still have at least two years remaining in their collegiate careers. Junior Michael Strand is the reigning Ivy League champion in the 100 back, and he owns a Princeton record time of 47.04 in the event. Strand, who has never finished worse than second in the 100, also reached the A final in the 200, and he posted a Top 10 time in the process.
The 200 champion was classmate Connor Maher, who made his conference weekend debut last season after missing freshman year due to illness. After sitting on the side for Princeton’s fourth straight crown, he played a big role in helping win No. 5. Maher, who has Top 5 times in both the 100 and 200, won his event by about half a second last season.
The only Princeton swimmer with Top 3 times in both the 100 and 200 is sophomore En-Wei Hu-Van Wright, who will be considered a strong contender for his first Ivy League title this season. Wright actually holds the Princeton record in the 200 back (1:43.55), and he was an A finalist in the 100, where he stands third in Princeton history at 48.20.
Princeton returns a loaded group of breaststrokers, led by sophomore Byron Sanborn, who posted a Top-30 finish at the NCAA Championships in the 200 breast, including the third-fastest time for any freshman in the nation. The Ivy runner-up in both the 100 and 200 breast, he is a major contender for both titles this season and will be looking to break the Princeton records in each, currently head by Jon Christensen ’12 (Sanborn is currently second in both).
Beyond Sanborn, Princeton placed three in the A final of both the 100 breast and 200 breast. Senior co-captain Daniel Hasler finished in the Top 6 of both, and his 200 time of 1:58.27 is fourth-fastest in program history. Sophomore Teo D’Alessandro finished fourth in the 100, and his time of 54.45 is fifth-fastest in program history; classmate Jack Pohlmann has the sixth-fastest time in both events, and he also finished in the Top 6 in both events at the Ivy Championships.
Senior Eric Materniak has also pushed hard during the offseason, and he could factor in both the breast and IM events.
While the 2013 Ivy League championship team wasn’t senior-dominated, there are two crucial individuals who leave big shoes to fill. One is Kaspar Raigla, who was Princeton’s lone finalist in the 100 breast. The top Princeton returner is Strand, whose time of 47.67 is currently fifth-fastest in program history.
Princeton does return two A finalists in the 200 fly, including sophomore Marco Bove, whose third-place time of 1:45.72 is the fifth-fastest in program history. Junior Oliver Bennett took seventh in the event, and he is just behind Bove with the school’s sixth-fastest 200 time (1:46.09).
The coaching staff has also been impressed with the progress of junior Mauricio Gonzalez-Aranda, who had Princeton’s third-fastest 200 time last season.
D’Alessandro provided one of the earliest highlights for Princeton during its 2013 Ivy championship weekend, breaking a program record and placing second overall in the 200 IM in 1:45.47. D’Alessandro was topped only by senior Nejc Zupan of Dartmouth, so he will enter this season as one of the strongest contenders for that title.
Two classmates gave the 200 final an Orange and Black feel. Sanborn took fourth, while Bove placed seventh, and each posted Top 6 times for Princeton during the prelims. Classmates Bole and Hu-Van Wright went 1-2 in the B final, and they made sure the Princeton Class of 2016 owned half of the Top 10 times in the event in Princeton history.
The 400 IM has been Hasler’s top event throughout his career, and he currently owns Princeton’s third-fastest time of 3:49.71. Junior Caleb Tuten owns a Top-6 time, while Bove finished just outside the Top 10 in the Ivy League finals.
Smiddy also comes to Princeton with impressive national credentials in the 400 IM, and he could pose an immediate threat to the league in the event.
The second key senior, and the most consistent Princeton diver over the last four years, is Stevie Vines. A former Ivy League Championships Diver of the Meet, Vines never finished below second in an A final during his four-year career.
Princeton has four divers in the mix this season, and the group is led by senior Mark O’Connell, who has reached the A final in both the 1- and 3-meter competitions over the last two years. He has placed in the Top 5 in the 3-meter competition each of the last two seasons, and he will be looking to make a championship push during his senior year.
Junior Michael Manhard made his A final debut in the 3-meter event last year, while Noam Altman-Kurosaki made his debut in the Ivy Championships last season. Freshman Nathan Makarewicz, a four-time Utah state champion in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events, earned All-America honors at West High School in Salt Lake City.